Light in August

( 41 )

Overview

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” —William Faulkner
 
Light in August, a novel about hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend ...

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Light in August

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Overview

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” —William Faulkner
 
Light in August, a novel about hopeful perseverance in the face of mortality, features some of Faulkner’s most memorable characters: guileless, dauntless Lena Grove, in search of the father of her unborn child; Reverend Gail Hightower, who is plagued by visions of Confederate horsemen; and Joe Christmas, a desperate, enigmatic drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty
 
“Faulkner’s greatness resided primarily in his power to transpose the American scene as it exists in the Southern states, filter it through his sensibilities and finally define it with words.” —Richard Wright
From the Publisher
“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty
 
“Faulkner’s greatness resided primarily in his power to transpose the American scene as it exists in the Southern states, filter it through his sensibilities and finally define it with words.” —Richard Wright
Donald Adams
With this new novel, Mr. Faulkner has taken a tremendous stride forward. . . . Light in August is a powerful novel, a book which secures Mr. Faulkner's place in the very front rank of American writers of fiction. -- Books of the Century; New York Times review, October 1932
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679732266
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/1/1991
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 89,679
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

William Faulkner

William Cuthbert Faulkner was born in 1897 and raised in Oxford, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life. One of the towering figures of American literature, he is the author of The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absalom!, and As I Lay Dying, a,ong many other remarkable books.Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 and France’s Legion of Honor in 1951. He died in 1962.

Biography

William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897. His family was rooted in local history: his great-grandfather, a Confederate colonel and state politician, was assassinated by a former partner in 1889, and his grandfather was a wealth lawyer who owned a railroad. When Faulkner was five his parents moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he received a desultory education in local schools, dropping out of high school in 1915. Rejected for pilot training in the U.S. Army, he passed himself off as British and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force in 1918, but the war ended before he saw any service. After the war, he took some classes at the University of Mississippi and worked for a time at the university post office. Mostly, however, he educated himself by reading promiscuously.

Faulkner had begun writing poems when he was a schoolboy, and in 1924 he published a poetry collection, The Marble Faun, at his own expense. His literary aspirations were fueled by his close friendship with Sherwood Anderson, whom he met during a stay in New Orleans. Faulkner's first novel, Soldier's Pay, was published in 1926, followed a year later by Mosquitoes, a literary satire. His next book, Flags in the Dust, was heavily cut and rearranged at the publisher's insistence and appeared finally as Sartoris in 1929. In the meantime he had completed The Sound and the Fury, and when it appeared at the end of 1929 he had finished Sanctuary and was ready to begin writing As I Lay Dying. That same year he married Estelle Oldham, whom he had courted a decade earlier.

Although Faulkner gained literary acclaim from these and subsequent novels -- Light in August (1932), Pylon (1935), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Unvanquished (1938), The Wild Palms (1939), The Hamlet (1940), and Go Down, Moses (1942) -- and continued to publish stories regularly in magazines, he was unable to support himself solely by writing fiction. he worked as a screenwriter for MGM, Twentieth Century-Fox, and Warner Brothers, forming a close relationship with director Howard Hawks, with whom he worked on To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Land of the Pharaohs, among other films. In 1944 all but one of Faulkner's novels were out of print, and his personal life was at low ebb due in part to his chronic heavy drinking. During the war he had been discovered by Sartre and Camus and others in the French literary world. In the postwar period his reputation rebounded, as Malcolm Cowley's anthology The Portable Faulkner brought him fresh attention in America, and the immense esteem in which he was held in Europe consolidated his worldwide stature.

Faulkner wrote seventeen books set in the mythical Yoknapatawpha County, home of the Compson family in The Sound and the Fury. "No land in all fiction lives more vividly in its physical presence than this county of Faulkner's imagination," Robert Penn Warren wrote in an essay on Cowley's anthology. "The descendants of the old families, the descendants of bushwhackers and carpetbaggers, the swamp rats, the Negro cooks and farm hands, the bootleggers and gangsters, tenant farmers, college boys, county-seat lawyers, country storekeepers, peddlers--all are here in their fullness of life and their complicated interrelations." In 1950, Faulkner traveled to Sweden to accept the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. In later books--Intruder in the Dust (1948), Requiem for a Nun (1951), A Fable (1954), The Town (1957), The Mansion (1959), and The Reivers (1962) -- he continued to explore what he had called "the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself," but did so in the context of Yoknapatawpha's increasing connection with the modern world. He died of a heart attack on July 6, 1962.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

Good To Know

William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text

The publisher, Harrison Smith, received Faulkner's typescript for As I Lay Dying in January 1930 and published it with very few editorial changes on October 6, 1930. That text remained the same through various reprints until 1964 when Random House brought out a new edition that was corrected in accordance with the original manuscript and typescript. For the "corrected text" shown here, scholar Noel Polk used Faulkner's own ribbon typescript setting copy, corrected to account for his revisions in proof, his typing errors, and other clear inconsistencies and mistakes.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Cuthbert Falkner (real name)
      William Faulkner
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 25, 1897
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Albany, Mississippi
    1. Date of Death:
      July 6, 1962
    2. Place of Death:
      Byhalia, Mississippi

Reading Group Guide

“For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics.” —Ralph Ellison

The introduction, discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Light in August, one of William Faulkner’s most important and memorable novels. We hope they will provide you with new ways of thinking and talking about a work that exemplifies Faulkner’s bold stylistic innovations, his creation of unforgettably powerful voices and characters, and his precise depiction of the social and psychological traumas of life in the South during the Jim Crow era.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 41 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 41 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2010

    Wonderful book!

    My first time reading a Faulkner novel but it will not be the last. This book is just so wonderful. Lots of symbolism. I would say this book is not for the impatient reader, but it makes you realize how some author's
    are really light weights. I would most surely recommend this for book discussions. I really enjoyed being in the old South!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    I made it out alive

    I picked this book out to read for a term paper because I'd heard many positive things about Faulkner and how enduring and amazing his writing was. We had months to read the book, so I didn't rush through it. I tried to enjoy the novel. Note the key word of 'tried.' There is nothing to this book but Faulkner making up adjectives and turning the book's most violent figure into a victim, at some points seeming to beg for pity for his character. A lot of points seem kind of random. The book itself isn't hard to follow, but either Faulkner shouldn't be hailed as a master or this book should not be hailed as a masterpiece. Given the choice I would avoid this book at all costs, and when I finally finished the novel I felt as though I'd been saved from drowning. The rest of my class seemed to enjoy their books and even their papers thoroughly. I will not be reading anything written by Faulkner for at least many, many years.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    OVERRATTED

    I thought this book sucked. It is 507 pages long and on one short paragraph on page 471 you find out what the light in August is. Also he constantly uses the 'N' word!This was one of the most boring books I have ever read. Faulkner went on and on talking about nothing! Except a girl and her baby's daddy. This is the worst classic I have ever read. It was just four good short stories combined together in one uninteresting book.

    1 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2014

    not his finest, but still excellent

    Though complex, this is a very approachable book, far from the modernist experimentation on books lik As I Lay Dying or The Sound and the Fury. A book about race but the character has so little black blood that he can easily pass. Yet his profound secret makes him restless and violent accepted by neither blacks nor whites. The other story in this novel is that of a strong young Alabama woman pregnant and abandoned by her one night stand. Faulkner creates a strong female heroine unencumbered by either the social dogma of unwed pregnancy or her gender in a time when society would assign her the role ou outcast. Although their stories overlap only in the father of the baby, their stories combine to show a changing South the violence to come from those who hold to the established structure of Southern culture and the forces that will destroy this culture quiet soon. Well worth reading both for those well acquainted with Faulkner and for those waiting to fall in love with his page-long sentences, his profound descriptions, and his heartbreaking picture of a flawed yet beautiful time that will soon end.

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  • Posted June 19, 2011

    Not so horribly bad

    To be honest, when I entered into my sophomore year at High School I didn't understand the meaning of a "difficult read" until I met Hawthorne and Faulkner. This book is definitely not for the "faint at heart" because it is a difficult read. What I liked about it was that it actually made me think and the complexity of the characters

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2006

    Light in August: Hardly a 'light' summer read

    Light in August is in no way for the faint at heart. It is threaded with very deep characters and often the direct themes can be hard to see. For all of its complexity, it recounts a thought provoking tale of a deep southern society scandalous, racist, yet full of austerity. Anyway, as a student, I would highly recommend reading this with editorial notes.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2005

    Long-winded

    For all his genius and skill, Faulkner's prose in _Light_ is largely repetitive and tiresome. The flashes of insight and beauty that occur in this book are astonishing, but too few and far between, with a great deal of padding filling out most of the book. The characters are memorable and well-rounded, and Faulkner tells a good story, but I was skimming over many of his (purposefully?) convoluted, inscrutable sentences.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2004

    Equal opportunity Faulkner

    The first Faulkner book I ever read was The Sound and the Fury. The cover said he was brilliant, and my creative writing teacher at that time argued much to the same. That book confused the bejeezus out of me, and I had to read a review, mch like this one, to find out what the book was actually about. Light in August is such a delight, in that it is easy to follow (for a Faulkner novel, anyway) and expresses so well, and so cosmically the inner workings of the human psyche, from abuse and religious zeal, to naivete and the kind of hope that drags one pregant woman across countless miles to find the man responsible. Full of murder, comedy (slight, anyway) and pitch perfect illuminating prose, Light in August is probably one of the most approachable Faulkner books, and certainly one of the most redeeming. It'l break your heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2003

    Great Work

    This is my first Faulkner book that I have ever read. I really enjoyed this book. I feel that it teaches you alot about what the times were like when this book was written. Many people that I know who have read this book told me that I would really enjoy it. I did not beleive them at first, but after I got into that book I really could not put it down. Best work that I have read in a long time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 22, 2002

    GOOD BOOK BAD BINDING

    Faulkner captures the isolation, lonliness, and confusion of the south, post civil, war by embodying them in each of his main characters. I STRONGLY recommend this enlightening book. My only complaint was the binding of the book fell apart within a two months of purchase.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2002

    Best Faulkner Novel

    I have just finished the Light in August and I felt this is the best Faulkner novel that I have read. This is a great book for someone that likes to read and not stop. I felt that you were always waiting for what would happen next. I will warn you that be aware of the chapters about a quarter of the way through where you go back to Joe Christmas as a child. I got a little confused but it will only take you a few pages to get back on track.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2000

    ugh!

    Okay, maybe the symbolism escapes me or something, but this book isn't that good!! I read it for a class over the summer and it really isn't good!! sorry if you like it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 1999

    Faulkner nails it

    This is the Faulkner for anyone who threw The Sound and the Fury across the room in disgust. What a genuine creation this novel is -- its bluntness would shock and astonish modern readers if they would only read it. Joe Christmas is one of the most subtly wrought Christ figures in literature. A must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2011

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